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  • Winnipeg Tribune

City of Winnipeg’s budget is the same old song and dance

City of Winnipeg budget includes tax and fee increases, a new tax levy, and nothing to address the real problems facing the city.
City of Winnipeg Budget

By: Guest Columnist, Kevin Klein

Winnipeg, February 10, 2024 - The City of Winnipeg’s budget is the same old song and dance. Elected officials claimed they had to make difficult decisions, and residents wondered what were those tough decisions. As the dust settles on the proposed increases in property taxes, city service fees, and the introduction of new levies on phone users and waste fees for apartment and condo dwellers, one can't help but wonder: where is the accountability?


In a time when Winnipeggers across all walks of life are tightening their belts and making tough financial decisions, it seems only fair that our elected officials demonstrate the same level of fiscal responsibility. Families are being forced to trim their budgets, sacrificing both non-essential and, unfortunately, even essential expenses. Yet, the City Council seems to be carrying on with business as usual. You and I pay more, and some services will have to be cut. We’ve heard that for years.


The decision to increase property taxes by 3.5% and raise fees for city services by anywhere from 2 to 5% is not bad and may seem like a necessary evil in the face of rising costs of living. However, what's notably absent from the discussion is any meaningful attempt to address non-essential spending within city departments. While it's acknowledged that tough decisions must be made, it's disheartening to see elected officials opt for revenue-raising measures without exploring a deeper look at other avenues for cost-saving.


Furthermore, the addition of a new tax on phone users and waste fees for apartment and condo buildings appears to disproportionately burden certain segments of the population. These decisions warrant closer scrutiny and a more transparent explanation from city officials.


In a recent column, I underscored the critical need for government spending to mirror the sacrifices made by the people it serves. One glaring example of this principle in action emerged when city councillors voted unanimously just a year ago to grant themselves a staggering 50% increase in their annual expense accounts, equating to nearly $80,000 more per year per councillor. One must ask: Was this significant hike even up for discussion when considering reductions? How can elected officials justify effectively doubling their expense accounts? Despite claims of making tough decisions, was this decision to boost their own allowances among those considered? These questions warrant thorough examination and demand transparency from our elected representatives.


It's time for a more rigorous approach to budgeting. While it's understood that solving these financial challenges won't happen overnight, there's a pressing need for greater accountability and transparency in how taxpayer dollars are allocated. One suggestion is to implement a zero-based budget review, systematically examining each department's spending in detail, one at a time. This approach would provide concrete evidence of where cuts can be made without compromising essential services.


The lack of concrete evidence that the City Council has thoroughly scrutinized each line item in the budget raises concerns about the effectiveness of their decision-making process. It's not enough for elected officials to simply claim that they've made tough decisions without demonstrating tangible results.


It's time for our elected officials to prioritize fiscal responsibility and demonstrate a genuine commitment to serving the best interests of the community. This means conducting thorough reviews of city spending, exploring all avenues for cost-saving, and ensuring that every dollar spent is accounted for. Anything less would be a disservice to the hardworking residents who bear the brunt of these financial decisions.



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